I have known Johannes Wels since the early 1990s from my time when I was an apprentice in Jacob Saunders´ workshop in Krems/ Donau. Our common interest in instruments and bows and love for chamber music soon developed into a friendship with many good conversations over dinner and chamber music sessions in different settings from classical to folk music. A proud owner of Pluhar violins, Johannes is an expert in Viennese “Schrammel” music. His group is called Donauschrammeln www.donauschrammeln.at and they play tunes by Strauss, Lanner, Stolz and many other composers who are not so well known. You can hear my violin on this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hezQw7TJgIE . I am lucky to have heard them several times, among them an unforgettable concert in Istanbul, Turkey, where they performed not only on the city´s biggest shopping mile but also in an open concert venue along the Bosphoros organized by the Austrian Cultural office. Here he plays a Pluhar violin in a Jewish song called “Arbetlose-Marsch”.
After their 2 week workshop in conjunction with University Mozarteum violinists and violists from Mexico gave their closing concert in the Pluhar Violin Making Workshop. Young students and professionals from Mexico have been invited by Fernanda Villalvazo Navarro and her Association PeepemArt for the ArtisTeach project to introduce the principals of Instrumental Pedagogy. Pluhar Violins was happy to host their final concert on January 24, 2019.
Muhammedjan Sharipov, student of University Mozarteum Salzburg with Prof. Harald Herzl has won the Paul Roczek Award. It comes with a prize winning concert on January 14th, 2019 and a cash award of € 10 000. Sharipov plays a Pluhar violin owned by Mozarteum Salzburg and loaned to him. Many congratulations!
Hear him play the solo in Asor Piazzolla´s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires here
Previous winners of this award include Ziyu He who has gone on to win Eurovision Young Musician’s and Yehudi Menuhin Competitions.
Prior to this Sharipov has won several other auditions and prizes:
3rd prize Arthur Grumiaux (2014)
1st prize in “Remember Enescu Competition” Romania (2015)
1st prize Concorso Ruggiero Ricci (2017)
Pacific Music Festival Orchestra (2018)
Verbier Festival Orchestra (2018)
Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble (2018)
Lucerne Festival Academy (2018)
While I am deeply rooted in classical music, my passion lies in Jazz.
Therefore I was very happy to be able to become a partner of Salzburg´s “Jazz and the City”
The band “Exit Universe” with Susana Sawoff and Raphael Meinhart turned the workshop into a packed concert venue with people even listening outside in front of the doors! Thanks for a great performance!
In the first edition of “Workshop in the Workshop” Pluhar Violins proudly invited top experts in the fields of Nutrition , Yoga and Movement Analysis to help musicians reach their potential in performance and practise routine.
Strains on musicians´ bodies are comparable to those athlets endure. In sports however, nutrition and physical therapy are standard. In musical education there is a lack thereof, which was the motivation for hosting this workshop. Attendance was good and a lot of ground was covered:
Through right nutrition concentration levels can be raised and muscle tensions reduced. This has to be individually worked out with an expert. Depending on your type, eating and drinking habits can differ greatly.
Yoga strengthens and stretches muscles; through breathing techniques focus and clarity can be enhanced.
Decisions on the right warm up and relaxation exercises can be made by analysing the complex positions musicians use when playing their instruments.
Many thanks to
Michael Lex (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
Ariadna Castorena (Yoga)
Bianca Günther (Integrated Movement Analysis)
for their time and sharing their knowledge.
It is a great honour to know that a Pluhar Violin is also being played in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Shkelzen Doli chose my violin and values it as one of the best modern ones he has ever played. It is based on a Stradivari model from 1704 and is one of my most succesful forms with a charcterful sweet, projecting sound.
The Vienna Phlharmonic Orchestra is one of the finest orchestras in the world with a tradition reaching back to 1842. It has worked with the great composers of the 19th and 20th centuries including J. Brahms, A. Bruckner, G. Mahler and R. Strauss to name but a few. In addition to performing the symphonic repertoire, the musicians of the VPO are also members of the Vienna State Opera, which gives them the experience of performing a very wide range of the musical repertoire. This includes the New Years Concert which is live broadcast to nearly 100 countries in the world with millions of viewers. I was thrilled to see my violin on TV being played by Mr. Doli in the Vienna Opera Ball recently.
In my new blog I would first like to feature the wonderful Viennese violinist Erich Höbarth. It is through him and the other members of the “Quatuor Mosaiques” that I got acquainted with many beautiful recordings of Mozart, Haydn and more recently Beethoven string quartets. Many of my instruments have been built with this music playing during work, deeply inspiring me.
It was after a live concert in London´s Wigmore Hall that I introduced myself to him and showed him one of my violins. How exciting that he ended up purchasing it! Over the years a friendship has developed with a lot of artistic exchange, even sharing a passion for jazz music. Hearing my violin in his hands on stage with the Vienna String Sextet, the Camerata Bern, in trio with Heinrich Schiff and Lars Vogt, in recitals with his pianist wife Nadja, in violin duets with his daughter Marina and in other combinations has not only made me proud but also very happy. The only regret I have is that I could not hear him play the solo in Mozart´s Sinfonia Concertante with Andras Schiff´s Cappella Andrea Barca in New York´s Carnegie Hall.
Thanks to a truly great musician!
Pluhar violin atelier adds more “Beauty of Sound” to Salzburg’s musical life
“Beauty of sound and charm that enchants.” These are the qualities that Hans Pluhar considers critically important when he makes a new violin. The 44-year-old, born in Boston and raised in Graz, moved to the City of Mozart three years ago. Pluhar feels that relocating his profession to Salzburg draws upon the city’s compelling artistic network and cultural ambience that largely centers around the Salzburger Festspiele and the city’s plethora of concerts: “My violins have brought me here” he told the APA.
With a charming chamber music soirée on June 10th, the violin maker will open his new workshop at Lasserstraße 6 in the center of Salzburg, within walking distance of the Mozarteum. Pluhar started creating both violins and violas 25 years ago in a peripatetic atelier that has resided in several different cities. One of the models he strives to emulate is the famous “Dushkin” with its powerful sound capacity, made by 18th century Italian violin maker Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu. Pluhar got a chance to play it on the occasion of meeting the Israeli violin virtuoso and conductor Pinchas Zukerman, who owns that instrument. “I was allowed to play it and I got its measurements from my colleagues,” Pluhar revealed. “This violin has inspired me with its beauty. Zukerman is coming to Salzburg in September. I want him to try out my violin.”
The opinion of a world-renown musician such as Zukerman is beneficial to Pluhar’s professional development. In the previous year, an orchestra member of the Vienna Philharmonic was enthusiastic about buying a Pluhar violin, which was built with a Stradivarius template. “Afterwards he told me that he had been looking for a sound like this all his life,” said Pluhar.
Sensitivity and patience are for Pluhar the most important qualities needed for this profession. “Patience and musicality are my strengths,” he explains. As a musician himself, Pluhar, when he speaks of his violins, is able to demystify the nature of his work. He studied violin and viola, as well as chamber and orchestral music, at the Conservatory in Graz. At the beginning of the 1990s he visited the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City (USA). He spent his apprenticeship and journeyman years in Krems on the Danube, and in London, where he worked as a restorer and became self-employed in the year 2000 as a violin maker, concentrating on producing new instruments. In 2011 he was awarded the trade license for stringed instrument producers in Graz.
Salzburg is an ideal location for both the business and private life for Pluhar. “Mozart and the Salzburger Festspiele center is known all over the world and has great significance for international marketing.” A violin maker can cultivate many professional contacts with artists here. This city also offers a high quality of life for a young family, said the married father of a seven-year-old son. His wife Gül Ersoy Pluhar has numerous employment possibilities as a freelance violist in Salzburg. She is currently a substitute in the viola section of the Camerata Salzburg and the Mozarteum orchestras, and also maintains her professional career in Istanbul on a part-time basis.
Not surprisingly, Pluhar’s violins are in demand. The Mozarteum University has purchased three concert violins to be used by talented students, one of whom has become a member of the Staatskapelle Dresden. Lukas Hagen, the first violinist of the Hagen Quartet, mediated the Mozarteum purchase, in addition to buying a “Pluhar” for himself ten years ago. “This was my first contact with Salzburg,” says the violin maker. The concertmaster of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Pieter Schoeman, also opted for a “Pluhar.” Pluhar admits “Schoeman said he would never sell the violin. This is extremely motivating for me. ”
Pluhar has furnished his workshop lovingly and with artistic detail. “I’m passionate about my profession – so I really enjoy going to my workshop.” At the age of four, he was allowed to accompany his father, a doctor who sang avocationally in a choir, to that ensemble’s orchestra rehearsals. Fascinated by the violin, Pluhar imitated the movements of the musicians. The magic spell of the instrument manifested a compelling grip on him. When he was eight years old, his parents finally allowed him to fulfil his desire to learn the violin. Then, as a 15-year-old, he revealed to his violin teacher that instead of going to music, he would prefer to become a violin-maker. He has never regretted this decision. He also met his wife through his own viola: Both were living in London when their lives intertwined as “his” instrument became “theirs.”
Even after 25 years the construction of violins is still fascinating for Pluhar. “Technical precision and artistic expression are very much in demand in my profession. This is exhibited in the tenth of a millimeter range,” he explains. He builds two to three violins a year, the length of time it takes for a violin to be properly finished in addition to running the business. “Each instrument is unique and has a characteristic sound. Although the violin as such is already 450 years old and has not changed much in its form, every violin-maker can superimpose his own style on the instrument and its sound — his handwriting, so to speak.” Pluhar additionally offers repairs and expert diagnosis.
Pluhar uses spruce for the top of the violin, and maple for the back, the neck and the sides, the so called ribs. The sides are planed and scraped down to a thickness of only one millimeter. For the spruce it is important that it is only from trees that grow in the Alps at more than 1,000 meters above sea level. “Through the hard winters, the spruce grows slower,” he explains. “The wood has a lot of strength in the longitudinal direction and is extremely light, due to the faster growth in summer.” He also prepares the violin’s lacquer himself, from resins and linseed oil.
But as a 21st-century person, Hans Pluhar mixes tradition and technology: the computer can be used to determine the frequency, sound velocity and density of the wood. A specially developed software enables him to graphically display the instrument’s strengths in color charts. “This is absolutely necessary in order to achieve repeatable results,” he affirms. At the end of his construction work, Pluhar the violinist applies the bow to the strings in order to listen to the results and to get the feel of how it is to play on it. “I like a clear, strong tone which projects very well in a large hall and allows for a diversity of sounds.” The perfect acoustics of Pluhar’s atelier in the City of Mozart demonstrate to the listener, and to the violin maker himself, the quality of his very specialized work.
Interview by Austrian Press Agency (APA), translated and edited by Alexandra Ivanoff, May 2017
Even a seemingly simple thing as stringing your violin up can be tricky without a good procedure for doing the task. Also there is advice from a string manufacturer on how one can speed up the playing in process of a brand new string and take the edge off the metallic sound in a matter of minutes.
When I string up a violin there are a few things I watch out for: Every time I change a string I apply some graphite on the grooves of nut and bridge. A HB pencil is perfect for the task. This helps the string to slide smoothly and prevents the metal string windings being damaged and pulled apart. Also it helps keep the bridge in the upright position.
The first of three security measures concerns the shape of the nut: I make sure that it is shaped nicely so the strings run over it without a kink. This is crucial for the strings lasting. Secondly I always place a soft cloth under the tailpiece to protect the varnish on the top. Lastly, when changing strings it is recommended to change only one string at a time, then there is no issue about where the bridge should go. A misplaced bridge can affect the sound greatly. Also, if the soundpost is loose it is better if the string pressure is not released completely because it could fall.
After first inserting the string end through the hole in the peg and then bending it I make a few turns on the opposite side of the string hole, then cross over the windings. This has two advantages: Firstly it ensures that there is enough space between the string and the peg box wall. Bunching the string against the pegbox wall will cause the peg to tighten and screw into the pegbox, risking damaging or cracking the pegbox wall. On a violin the A peg area is especially susceptible to this type of damage. Heads can even break off if the peg is too tight. Secondly it prevents the string from slipping when tightening it. The string should be a straight progression from the nut to the peg.
When changing strings and tuning them, the string movement pulls the bridge forward a little every time. If the angle is not corrected the bridge will start warping quickly. Also, the sound transmission is not perfect anymore. So, the thing to do is to assess the angle and decide how much the bridge needs to be corrected. As a rule of thumb the back of the bridge should be perpendicular to the arching. I use the fingerboard and the tailpiece to rest my ring or middle fingers against and use my thumbs to readjust the bridge. One thumb pushes, the other one supports lightly. This is a safe method.
At the beginning of my violin making career I always used Dominant strings on my new violins because it makes it easier to compare sounds from one violin to the next. Now there is a wider selection of brands. New strings can sound a bit metallic in the beginning. Having addressed this issue to the manufacturing company I received the following advice. Change one string after the other. Bring it up to pitch, take your bow and play on the string for about 30 seconds as close to the bridge as possible with great force, producing a real scratchy noise. They recommend using an inexpensive bow.
Next take a piece of cotton cloth, chamois leather, or simply a piece of kitchen towel and rub the string really well. It is important that the string is twisted as you rub it. Careful! This produces quite some heat, so I make sure I have enough material between the string and my fingers. As a result some oil from the production process is released. This is the black line on my kitchen towel. Then you tune the string down roughly a third, bring it back up to pitch and you are finished. Not only will the string be more stable in pitch right from the beginning but it will also sound warmer. This method was shown to me by the string designer of Thomastik- Infeld, so it works with their products, but please be cautious with other string brands, because their production process might be different.
I think pegs are a great issue for the musician. They can make your life really easy or extremely difficult. Well fitted and adjusted pegs are a fundamental prerequisite for success. However the position of the peg head is quite important too. I am not aware of any way of knowing where the peg will end up once the string is brought to pitch. If the head of the peg ends up in an awkward position it might be quite difficult to turn it in a controlled way when tuning. In order to correct this I unwind the string and pull it a bit further through the hole using a pair of tweezers if necessary. As the peg is turned clockwise to increase the pitch, pulling the end of the string through the hole further will result in the head of the peg being positioned more anti clockwise in comparison to before. Continue this procedure until you are satisfied with the peg head position for tuning.
There is nothing more annoying for the musician if tuning is difficult. This is particularly important when players try out my violins. Therefore I always check that the peg position is comfortable. Not everyone tunes the same way but the position shown in the picture works well for me. Another concern is air humidity. Pegs being made of wood losen or tighten up with changing humidity. This can go quite quickly. It is advisable to check the pegs when coming from a very wet environment into a drier or air conditioned environment. It can become very annoying if the pegs slip suddenly. Equally, pegs can tighten up too much with an increase in air humidity to such a degree that they get stuck in which case I losen them a bit before playing or storing it. Using a small digital thermometer- hygrometer helps.